After dropping a 98-97 decision to Charlotte on Nov. 21, it would seem normal for the Toronto Raptors to feel like they owe the Bobcats a game. Add in the fact that the NBA acknowledged that the officiating crew missed a call against rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist who was guarding Andrea Bargnani on the final possession of the one-point victory, and, yes, the Raptors feel like this game is one that needs to have a different outcome.
Of course, if you ask Amir Johnson, he’ll tell you that the team, “feels like we owe a lot of people, man.”
Sitting at 13-22 on the season, there are a lot of games the Raptors would like to get a re-do on.
Rookie forward Terrence Ross participated in practice on Thursday, but will remain a game-time decision for the Raptors with a sprained left ankle.
Raptors coach Dwane Casey said he’s feeling — and moving — much better than after he sprained it during Sunday’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, but that it’s still sore and they’ll evaluate prior to the game.
Johnson talked about needing to compete for a full 48 minutes against the Bobcats and the importance of not having an energy drop off in the second half of the game.
“We can’t slack on them,” Johnson said. “We know they beat us a couple of games. We always play them hard and then we slack on them in the third and fourth. We’ve got to play all game.”
In the last meeting between the two teams, Bobcats rookie Jeff Taylor did an excellent job defending DeMar DeRozan, forcing him into bad shots and getting under his skin. DeRozan finished with 14 points on 6-for-14 shooting in the loss, while also turning the ball over five times and getting a technical foul. The challenge for DeRozan on Friday night will be not allowing Taylor to rattle him and get him out of his rhythm.
Against a youthful and athletic Bobcats roster, the Raptors will need to be focused defensively, and most importantly, function as a team.
“I think everybody will have to guard the yard,” Johnson explained. “We know they like to go one-on-one. They usually don’t have a set offence. Once they catch the ball they pretty much go one-one-one so that everybody has to man up and play defence. Everybody has to help each other.”
After Thursday’s practice, Dwane Casey talked about the chemistry that Johnson and Ed Davis are developing on the defensive end of the floor. Johnson agreed and then took it a step further and said the team as a whole has improved defensively and that they are starting to play together and understand the importance of helping one another. Johnson also had praise for the job Davis has done, stepping in for the injured Andrea Bargnani.
“I think he’s coming into his own,” he said. “He’s shooting the ball a bit more, his confidence is building and that’s what we need from him.”
While the Raptors are certainly happy to have Landry Fields back with Alan Anderson bringing some depth off of the bench, they are also patiently waiting for Bargnani (elbow), Linas Kleiza (sore right knee) and rookie Jonas Valanciunas (broken finger) to get healthy and help lessen the minutes burden on Davis and Johnson. The return of Fields has helped the team in more ways than one as he’s bounced from the three spot to the four when the team has needed to get Davis or Johnson a breather.
“He has something that you don’t’ get from a lot of players,” Johnson said. “He definitely has a lot of energy. He’s a great slasher. I don’t know what to pinpoint on Fields, but he gives us energy. He gives that little stuff. We need that and it’s great to have him on the team.”